Fargo Recap: Season 3, episode 6, ‘The House of Special Purpose’


Believe it or not, Varga really isn’t kidding around

Fargo, as we have pointed out before, is a show about mix-ups, mistaken identities, and the insane escalation that follow. Episode 5, ‘The House of Special Purpose,’ comes right out of the gate with a classic Fargo mistake. Ray and Nikki have cooked up a blackmail scheme by having Ray pretend to be Emmit, and then filming the two of them having sex. Well, instead of the real Emmit getting the video first and having to pay the ransom, his wife watches it. So, yeah, oops. For what it’s worth, this is also the episode in which Ray proposes to Nikki. These two events happen within minutes of each other.

Now that Emmit has lost his family within the first ten minutes of the episode, it’s time to get even. ‘The House of Special Purpose’ pushes Fargo forward decisively – there are no more build-up episodes. The idea of Ray pretending to be Emmit is still so superbly stupid, but it fits just the kind of thing that would work in a Coen brother-created universe.

Speaking of growing problems, Sy is on the bad side of Varga, which is not a good place to be. Varga is a character who expertly walks the line between disgusting, foul thug and urbane mastermind. In a rather, shall we say, unsettling conversation, Varga calls Sy’s wife fat and makes him drink from a mug in which he has put his penis. Varga does not fool around, and his type of villainy feels somehow unique to the Fargo universe. Varga may be the first outright antisemitic character in Fargo. He refers to Sy as “the Jew” and to his wife as being half-animal. He could quite easily be the most evil and mysterious villain that Fargo has had so far.

Image Credit: FX

Emmit, unfortunately for Sy (and perhaps himself) now only has eyes for Ray. Sy gets a fair amount of screen time this episode. Outside of dealing with Emmit’s situation, he is also trying to sell the business, or at least get out of it. He’s just about had it with the current arrangement, which is understandable.

Though it’s not so hard to see where this new focus is going to end up. Emmit lets him off the leash in order to deal with Ray, which happens in one of the most Minnesota conversations ever to grace this show. Sy relishes his new freedom, which he uses to set up a meeting with Nikki to hash things out. This does not go as planned, and as we already know, Sy has been followed. Varga’s two goons beat Nikki, though all of the violence it offscreen, with only Sy’s facial expressions letting us know how horrible it is. Shockingly, they do not kill her.

Image Credit: FX

On the other side, Gloria and Winnie are hot on Ray’s trail. Fargo has had a little trouble so far creating the kind of connection to Gloria that we previously had to Molly, or even her dad is season 2. Hopefully, that will change now that she has Winnie to play off of. The two of them interrogate Emmit, who doesn’t exactly play well in these situations. This doesn’t end up going anywhere because the “new chief” puts a stop to it, once again stalling actual investigation. Ah, well.

Varga isn’t easily thrown for a loop, but he certainly is when Emmit gets a surprise visit from the IRS. This is because Ray was greedy enough to withdraw enough money to trigger an IRS visit, even though he was warned against it. This will undoubtedly bring Ray to Varga’s attention. It’s heartbreaking when Ray finds Nikki collapsed in the bathtub.

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These are now two people in way over their heads; Ray especially so. That is a classic Fargo situation, but it never gets any easier to stomach. It’s not clear where they will go from here, but Ray is certainly going to be out for blood. The episode ends with a fade out from a smoking animal, which could be a bear or a wolf. It works well as a visual metaphor for danger and is certainly appropriate.

‘The House of Special Purpose’ ups the ante considerably, with just about everyone ready for a war of some kind. Hats off to Sy for surviving the episode – let’s just say we were not confident in that. Gloria reminds the most uninteresting thread here, but there is still time for that to pick up.

It’s a testament to how nerve-wracking the story of Varga and the Stussy brothers are that spending time away from that feels misspent. There’s no going back from the events of this episode, and we expect Fargo to seriously heat up going forward.